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Xbox Live Arcade Review: After Burner Climax

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Have you ever stopped to consider what a game of After Burner costs? No, not the quarter you put into the slot at the arcades or the $10 this Xbox Live Arcade update requires; the real world physical cost assuming all of this was possible? Let’s be conservative and assume the jets are $10 million each (x30 or so in an early level, players and enemies included). Toss in missiles, bullets fired, fuel, cost of delivering messages to fallen pilots wives… A level alone could reach $500 million in about a minute of play time. That’s value for only $10.

It is also what makes ‘80s gaming so wonderful. It is a world of absurd action, piling on as many explosions as the hardware would be able to handle. With technology now, the amount of crumbling metal jet frames is countless.

After Burner Climax is completely ridiculous, but it is everything video games are meant to be. An escape, a pure, unfiltered escape from reality. Hitting a button suddenly propels the player forward at such ridiculous speeds, they can barely see what is happening. That doesn’t matter. It feels like a weird sense of freedom, something the visuals of this Xbox 360 edition instill better than even the classic After Burner, the sequels, or even the PSP update.

Like Space Harrier, which After Burner was modeled after, the player can feel helpless amongst the onslaught of enemy jets, backed by a government that apparently only limits military spending to the speed at which new cash can be printed. The chosen jet (out of three to start) takes up precious screen space as the camera sits from behind, blocking the view of enemies and oncoming mountains alike.

Physics-destroying movement lets the jets maneuver at implausible angles, and spin with the grace most birds could only dream of. After Burner is offensive-minded, offering missiles at a rate that can be barely be considered limited, and streams of machine gun fire. Intensity is not derived from wiping out conveniently aligned formations of enemies however, but conquering the speed and reacting fast enough to avoid objects behind the player.

Climax changes little of the After Burner formula, aside from the wonderful visual upgrade. It is short yet precise, allowing for a few branching paths that seem to exist purely to separate different visual templates from one another. Those struggling with the wickedly fast mechanics need only play more, as additional continues and other bonuses unlock as you play. The aid of the Climax mechanic, which wipes out an entire screens worth of jets in one swoop, makes it easier as well.

True After Burner fans will know to use the after burners themselves when they’re not supposed to. Barreling through a tight canyon level or increasingly claustrophobic confines of mechanical tunnels, Climax generates dizzying speed, everything the original After Burner wanted to do, but couldn’t. It is a test of skill, reaction time, and wits, sort of the ultimate game of chicken with a $10 million aircraft in tow.

Afterburner Climax is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Violence. This game can also be found on: PS3.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.